WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the next potential round of COVID-19 federal relief and a two-part strategy focusing on rescue and recovery that includes $350 billion in critical aid to state, local and territorial governments, will help America’s counties on the front lines of the pandemic response. That’s according to a new analysis of the plan by the National Association of Counties (NACo).
The plan contains many county priorities, including implementing a national COVID-19 vaccination program, increased food assistance and emergency funding for child care, small businesses, unemployment benefits, rental assistance and public transit. Other provisions include new investments to protect our nation against cyber-attacks and re-open schools safely.
Elements of the American Rescue Plan that positively affect America’s 3,069 counties include:
- A National Vaccine Distribution Plan. The proposal provides $20 billion to state, local, tribal and territorial governments to launch community vaccination centers and deploy mobile vaccination units to remote areas. The plan also provides a 100 percent increase in the Federal Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for the administrations of vaccines to Medicaid enrollees. Counties will play a large role in the implementation of COVID-19 vaccination programs.
- Increased Funding for Testing and Public Health Support. The plan includes $50 billion to assist local governments and schools with regular COVID-19 testing to support safe reopening, protect residents in county-owned facilities such as long-term care facilities and jails, and provide free testing to county residents.
- Support for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations. The plan provides additional funding to respond to and mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks long-term care facilities and to serve the health needs of underserved populations, including minorities, women and the elderly.
- Rental, Utility and Homeless Prevention Assistance. The plan extends the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and continues applications for forbearance on federally guaranteed mortgages. The plan also includes $5 billion in emergency assistance to help secure housing for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Since the beginning of the pandemic, counties have worked to address the housing needs of residents negatively impacted by COVID-19.
- Expand Paid Leave and Reimbursements to Public Sector Employers. The plan would renew the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) emergency paid leave program through September 30, 2021, and would make public sector employers, including counties, eligible to receive the payroll tax credit. Under the FFCRA, counties were not eligible to receive this credit impacting our already strained budgets. Since the passage of the FFCRA, NACo has advocated for local governments to be eligible for these paid leave tax credits.
- New Assistance for Children and Families. The plan includes a $1,400 stimulus check per person (income eligible), expands the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for children under age 6), expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers, provides an additional $1 billion to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and an additional $3 billion in nutrition assistance, and offers $170 billion to safely reopen schools.
- Funding for Public Transit. The plan directs $20 billion to the nation’s hardest hit public transit systems to keep the systems running and save jobs.
Read NACo’s full analysis of the American Rescue Plan here.
“We thank President-elect Biden for introducing a plan that recognizes the vital, frontline role of America’s counties in mitigating and ending the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase. “Throughout the pandemic, counties have dug into our reserves, leveraging essential federal investments, to help curtail the virus, keep our small businesses alive, and serve our most vulnerable residents, including our seniors, children, unemployed, sick, and 3.6 million county frontline workers.” Read NACo’s full statement on the plan here.
America’s 3,069 county governments support over 1,900 local public health departments, nearly 1,000 hospitals and critical access clinics, more than 800 long-term care facilities and 750 behavioral health centers.
Additionally, county governments are responsible for emergency operations centers and 911 services, court and jail management, public safety and emergency response, protective services for children, seniors and veterans, and the “last of the first responders” with coroners and medical examiners, among many other essential public services.
NACo’s coronavirus online hub includes county level examples of response efforts, interactive maps and analyses of federal actions. View this resource-rich webpage at www.naco.org/coronavirus.Standard